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Home > Volunteer Aid Detachments (VADs) > Kay Ruddick Red Cross Escort Officer Overseas

Click image for larger view. Kay Ruddick in her Red Cross Uniform, 1946.
Click image for larger view. Kay Ruddick in her Red Cross Uniform, 1946.
Click image for larger view. E/Os Hilda Auld, Beatrice Proud, Mrs. Ada O'Neill, and Leah Halsall on board the Scythia en route from Liverpool to Halifax, October 4, 1946.
Click image for larger view. E/Os Hilda Auld, Beatrice Proud, Mrs. Ada O'Neill, and Leah Halsall on board the Scythia en route from Liverpool to Halifax, October 4, 1946.
Click here for a complete list of the 94 Red Cross Escort Officers who worked with the Canadian War Brides between 1945 and 1947.
Click for larger image. Red Cross Escort Officer May Feetham.
Click for larger image. Red Cross Escort Officer May Feetham worked in the Red Cross Port Nursery at Pier 21 and she also made 17 trips across the Atlantic helping to transport war brides. Photo courtesy of May's neice, Marion Gaetan.

On January 17, 1947, one of the most fascinating chapters of World War Two came to a close when the last official war bride ship left England with 691 Canadian war brides on board.

For Kay (Douglass) Ruddick of Hampton, New Brunswick, the sailing of the last bride ship marked the end of an amazing journey that began when she joined the Moncton detachment of the Canadian Red Cross Corps in 1945.

The Red Cross Corps was a female-only Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) whose job it was to assist the Department of National Defence during and immediately after the war's end. Corp members did everything from the dreary to the dangerous: from inspecting and packing jam for overseas and circulating library books in military hospitals, to driving trucks and ambulances on the beachheads in France and performing escort duty on board ships during war time.

At the height of war, there were 15,000 Corps members in detachments across Canada. Of these, only 641 went overseas, earning the coveted distinction of Red Cross Corp "Overseas". Once the war was over and the soldiers had been repatriated in sufficient numbers to allow for civilian transportation, nearly one hundred Corp members were specially recruited from both the Overseas detachment and from the Canadian-based detachments to work in what the press called "Operation Daddy."

Operation Daddy referred to the nearly 45,000 war brides and their 21,000 children who were waiting impatiently in Great Britain and Europe to join their husbands in Canada. The job of the Escort Officers was to assist them on their trans-Atlantic journey. New Brunswick's contribution to the Red Cross Escort Officers were best friends Kay (Douglass) Ruddick and Margery (Van der Mude) Holder of Moncton. Joining them were Marion (Robb) Beattie of Saint John; Anne (Freestone) Hutchinson, now of Vancouver; and the late Elva Ferris, of Saint John.

Looking back more than half a century later, Kay describes work on the war brides' ships and in the London brides' hostels as the most "exciting time of my life," - and the detailed diary she kept of her experiences supports her claim. Filled to overflowing with photographs, newspaper clippings and mementos of her overseas experience, the diary is testimony to a little-known part of Canadian war history.

Kay was 21 years-old when she joined the Corps detachment in Moncton. Initially she worked the kiosk at the Moncton train station where returning troops passed en route to north-western and north-eastern New Brunswick and to points throughout Canada. Her duties there included distributing cigarettes and coffee to soldiers as they disembarked or changed trains at Moncton.

But Kay had bigger things on her mind when she joined the Red Cross Corp, and itcertainly was not watching the trains go by at the Moncton station! The war was over, the soldiers were returning to Canada, and peace-time Europe beckoned withpromises of adventure beyond her wildest dreams. Kay wanted to go overseas!

It was not easy for civilians to travel overseas during and immediately after the war. It was even more difficult for women, who were banned by the Canadian government from obtaining exit visas for overseas travel. In order to go overseas with the Red Cross Corp, Kay had to qualify, which meant she had to take first aid and home nursing courses and she had to put in at least two hundred hours volunteer duty at the Hotel Dieu hospital in Moncton.

All the bed-pans were worth it, however, when Kay and Mardy were finally selected for escort duty with the Overseas detachment of the Red Cross Corps. On February 28, 1946, the two young women left Halifax for London, England on the ship, The Lady Nelson. From that day on, Kay wrote detailed accounts of her daily experiences, and until her last entry on November 3, 1946, she never missed a single day. Whether she was working on the war bride ships on the Atlantic, in the brides' hostels in London, or travelling around Europe on her time off, Kay found time to keep a written record of her adventures that is a significant contribution to Canadian history. ... Click for next page

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